When a new Bellevue City Council convenes next January, it will be less conservative.
But that philosophical shift could be a subtle one in a local government where road-paving and utilities often take precedence over ideology.
Don Davidson, the council’s longest-serving member and an avowed conservative, conceded last week that he had lost the primary to two more liberal political newcomers.
Another conservative council member, Kevin Wallace, faces a serious challenge in his bid for a second term.
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Davidson’s startling defeat came after his campaign got a late start due to illness and then he failed to submit a timely statement for the King County Voters’ Pamphlet. He drew only 25 percent of the vote.
Davidson and Wallace are part of a 4-3 council majority that for much of the past four years fought Sound Transit’s planned light-rail route through South Bellevue, rejected property-tax increases and resisted tougher conflict-of-interest language in the ethics code.
Among the issues facing the council in the coming term are downtown zoning rules, development of the Bel-Red Corridor and shoreline regulations.
Davidson on Tuesday endorsed biotech-industry professional Vandana Slatter over local civic activist Lynne Robinson in the election to replace him. Slatter, who edged out Davidson with 26 percent of the vote, has a long climb to overtake Robinson, who dominated the primary with 48 percent.
Davidson, first elected to the council in 1983, said in a statement he was supporting Slatter because it is important the City Council “stay balanced, nonpartisan and focused on the needs of citizens.”
He praised Slatter as “an independent thinker” with experience in an industry that will help her contribute to the city’s economic growth.
Davidson was upset by Robinson’s attacks — some of which he said were inaccurate — on his record on light-rail transit and affordable housing, during a Seattle Times editorial-board interview in June.
No matter who wins in November, Davidson said in an interview, he was “one of the more conservative voices” on the City Council and his departure will make it more centrist.
“I think that it will move toward the middle, which may be good,” Davidson said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. All ideas are good. I don’t think they’re going to take a radical left turn. I hope not.”
A fiscal conservative, Davidson played a key role in creating the Cascade Water Alliance and fought unsuccessfully to route the Sound Transit light-rail line away from two South Bellevue neighborhoods.
Slatter, a trustee of the Overlake Hospital Medical Center Foundation and former NARAL Pro-Choice Washington board member, trailed far behind Robinson in the primary even after spending a record $108,000, most of it her own money.
Slatter’s political consultant, Lisa MacLean, called Davidson’s endorsement of Slatter “a big political win for her. I think she’s already capturing support from independents and progressive-leaning voters. So here’s an opportunity to really broaden her political appeal.”
Christian Sinderman, consultant to Robinson, said Davidson’s endorsement is less significant than the size of Robinson’s primary victory, in which “She gained almost a plurality of support against the candidate who was aligned with the fading old guard of Bellevue as well as someone who was willing to spend recklessly in order to try to buy a seat.”
Slatter’s campaign used equally harsh language about her opponents in the primary. After Robinson and Slatter competed for the King County Democrats endorsement in the nonpartisan council race — a contest Robinson won — a Slatter campaign mailer called Robinson “a typical political candidate — an insider who plays politics in partisan organizations.”
Robinson dismissed that characterization as sour grapes.
In the other primary race, Wallace outpolled three challengers in the primary, but East Bellevue Community Council Chair Steve Kasner came within 4 percentage points of the incumbent — 46 percent to 42.
“I don’t think he has a walk, that’s for sure,” Davidson said of Wallace’s re-election prospects. “He’s going to have to get out and campaign. He’s a good campaigner; he’s working hard and so is Steve.”
Wallace and Kasner interpreted their primary showings very differently from each other.
Wallace said he was “thrilled” with the primary results and expects his margin over Kasner to widen in the general election.
“I think when that boils down to two candidates we should be looking even stronger,” Wallace said. “It’s a reflection of the fact that I’ve worked hard to be collaborative and build consensus without regard to party lines.”
Wallace fought Sound Transit for two years over its planned light-rail alignment and then helped negotiate agreements that authorized that route but included measures to reduce the trains’ noise and visibility to neighbors.
Kasner, who contends Wallace wasted the city’s time and money promoting an alternate rail route that would have spanned Mercer Slough, said the primary shows Wallace is vulnerable.
“If I knock on enough doors and say, ‘Here’s who I am, here’s who my opponent is,’ I win nine out of 10 times,” Kasner said. “If I do that between now and Election Day, I will be your new City Council person.”
Also in the November election, Mayor Conrad Lee, a political ally of Wallace and Davidson, will face political newcomer Lyndon Heywood, who has reported no campaign contributions.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org